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Thread: Grand Central Exterior Restoration

  1. #16
    Architectural Padawan
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Turtle Bay


    The scaffolding on the west faccade has started to come down... the station looks amazing.... if i didn't have such an aversion to looking like a tourist, I'd already have a picture to post.

  2. #17
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    New York City



    A worker performs a light wash on a statue of Minerva on the roof of Grand Central Terminal as part of a decades-long restoration project.

  3. #18
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    in Limbo


    New Wave of Upgrades at Grand Central Shops

    The window of the boutique La Crasia looks out into the Lexington Passage at Grand Central Terminal.

    Published: March 19, 2008

    Grand Central Terminal is like a seasoned Hollywood celebrity, aging gracefully with the help of a little nip and tuck now and then, and a major face-lift only when absolutely necessary.

    The last overhaul was completed 10 years ago; it resulted in a whole new retail face for one of New York’s best-known landmarks. Now, many of the leases signed after the renovation will be expiring in the next few years, with the first wave concentrated in the Lexington Passage, an entrance from 43rd Street created during the renovation.

    The property managers of Grand Central think this provides an ideal time for another nip and tuck. “We want to freshen things up a bit, update the look and mix of retailers,” said Gordon L. Pelavin, vice president and general manager for Jones Lang LaSalle, which has managed Grand Central for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority since it gained control of the property in 1994. “Retail has really changed over the last 10 years.”

    So has Grand Central. When the Lexington Passage retail spaces were being completed in 1998, the terminal was considered a risky venture.

    The passage leads commuters past stores on the way to the street.

    Then, most of the stores were aimed at commuters, and the Main Concourse was dingy and covered with large banner advertising.

    The original leasing agent, Williams Jackson Ewing, based in Maryland, courted local boutique operators.

    “National chains get tired,” said Michael Ewing, a principal of Williams Jackson Ewing, which had overseen the redevelopment of Union Station in Washington in the early 1980s. “They get to be big companies, and it’s hard for them to change. Small retailers are constantly evolving and updating.”

    The strategy worked, and the small stores did well. Grand Central remains one of the rare collection of stores where national chains have not taken over. There is still a concentration of local retailers, and only 16 percent of the stores are national chains.

    Not only have annual sales steadily risen, to $175 million in 2007 from $117 million in 2000 (excluding fine-dining restaurants), but there has also been little turnover among tenants.

    With annual sales averaging $1,300 a square foot, many tenants would like more space, including Pink Slip, a lingerie shop, whose lease expires this year.

    Margo Andros started Pink Slip by selling at flea markets and initially went to Grand Central as part of the Holiday Fair, a temporary market set up in November and December in Vanderbilt Hall, adjacent to the Main Concourse. This event has acted as an incubator for local retailers to test their products without taking the risk of a long-term lease.

    After solid sales, Pink Slip signed a lease. With only 337 square feet, its revenue was $906,385 in 2007, not including the Holiday Fair, which pushed the total over $1 million, Ms. Andros said. The leasing agents and property managers have “done a great job with marketing,” she said. “We have 4,000 customers, and we made a name here and we would like to expand,” despite a potentially difficult retail climate on the horizon.

    Ms. Andros said that while total sales are the same as last year in dollar terms, the number of transactions is down (meaning that shoppers are spending more on average).

    Recent surveys indicate that consumer confidence in New York State is down sharply, according to the Siena College Research Institute, based in Loudonville, N.Y., which has been tracking consumer confidence in New York since 1999.

    Indeed, a few tenants are concerned about slowing sales, even though the ridership of Metro-North Railroad is higher than ever; 700,000 people pass through Grand Central daily. One manager of a store in the Lexington Passage said that total sales revenue and the number of sales so far this year were down compared with last year.

    Among the Lexington Passage shop owners interviewed, however, not one wanted to leave, and most wanted to expand, which may not be easy to do.

    The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Jones Lang LaSalle and Williams Jackson Ewing require shop owners to reapply for their spaces as they become available and explain how they will upgrade their businesses. By March 2011, 49 leases will be expiring, representing 56,884 square feet, a little more than 40 percent of the total space.

    Ms. Andros said she would apply for five spaces just to make sure she gets a spot. While she believes that Pink Slip, with good sales and a willingness to upgrade, will almost surely be approved for a new lease, others might not be so lucky.

    This is particularly true of retailers that are dealing with difficult market changes, like InMotion Entertainment, a DVD and CD store, which faces the prospect of becoming obsolete as online sources for movies and music gain in popularity.

    The terminal has qualities that make it exceedingly attractive to retailers, said Karen Bellantoni, executive vice president of Robert K. Futterman & Associates, who is familiar with leasing activity at Grand Central but is not currently involved.

    “You’ve got tourists and commuters coming in on Metro-North, a strong demographic coming from Westport and Westchester,” she said. “And you also have the office population, lawyers, hedge funds and the MetLife Building attached.”

    She added, “Maybe the former World Trade Center is about the only thing that would be similar.”

    Meanwhile, another nip and tuck is starting at the grande dame. About 15 years after its last big overhaul, Vanderbilt Hall is closing for a major cleaning, the transportation authority and Metro-North Railroad recently announced.

    For the next seven months, conservators will clean and repair the faux Caen stone walls, the Tennessee pink marble floors and the white Botticino marble wainscoting in the 12,500-square-foot room.

    Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

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